Tribal leaders’ voices heard in historic meeting with Interior Secretary Haaland

RAPID CITY, S.D. — On Friday, in the middle of the Lakota Nation Invitational, came a special visit from U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Haaland dropped by the art show in Monument Arena before attending a meeting with the Great Plains Tribal Leaders.

Img 1063Leaders of more than a dozen tribes from across the Great Plains region gathered in Rapid City in a closed meeting to discuss the biggest concerns for their people.

“I think it’s a strong sign from this current administration that they want to recommit, reestablish, and develop better relationships – especially with the region,” says Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier, who I spoke with a few weeks ago following the Biden Administration’s Tribal Nations Summit, expressed optimism at Haaland’s willingness to hear each leader’s concerns.

“I was somewhat…a little bit…satisfied; one of the things that kind of surprised me a little bit was that we did have enough adequate time to stress our needs,” Chairman Frazier says. “We just have to be optimistic, like every new administration coming in.”

Representation in this often-overlooked region giving tribal leaders cautious hope.

“To have a cabinet secretary come to the Black Hills is super important; it’s very historic,” says Chairwoman Janet Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “And to sit there and let the tribal leaders engage for two hours, I thought was really good.”

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe of New Mexico, is the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

“And me being a Lakota winyan [woman], you know how proud I am to see another historic moment…to have a woman sitting at the cabinet level and her being a native woman,” Chairwoman Alkire adds.

NewsCenter1 reached out to Secretary Haaland’s office for comment after the nearly two hour meeting, but they declined.

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